Let’s get back to the campaign for just a minute. We spoke with Governor Romney and he talked about the way in which you, Mr. President, are making our country “far more like Europe, with a larger, more dominant, more intrusive government. …” How do you react to being characterized as somebody with foreign ideas?
PO: When you look at the policies I’ve promoted, they used to be considered bipartisan, mainstream ideas. What’s changed is not me. What’s changed is where the Republican Party’s gone. In fact, a lot of the things I’ve done are things that Mr. Romney, when he was governor of Massachusetts, seemed to promote. … What’s absolutely true is that we’ve had to take some emergency steps, like saving the auto industry, that weren’t free, that weren’t popular, but were the right thing to do.
If you were female, we would ask, "How has being female affected your ability to govern?" So, how has being black affected your ability to govern?
PO: I’m sure it makes me more determined in assuring that everybody’s getting a fair shot—in the same way that being a father of two daughters makes me want to make sure that every woman is getting equal pay for equal work, ’cause I don’t want my daughters treated differently than somebody else’s sons. By virtue of being African-American, I’m attuned to how throughout this country’s history there have been times when folks have been locked out of opportunity, and because of the hard work of people of all races, slowly those doors opened to more and more people. Equal opportunity doesn’t just happen on its own; it happens because we’re vigilant about it. But part of this is not just because we’re African-American—it’s also because Michelle and I were born into pretty modest means. And so I think about my single mom and what it was like to go to school and work at the same time. And I think about Michelle’s dad, who had a disability and was working every day and didn’t have a lot of money to spare. But somehow our parents or grandparents were able to give us these opportunities partly because they lived in a society that said that was important. And as president, I want to affirm that that’s important and reject the idea that if we just reward those at the top, that somehow that’s going to work for everybody—’cause that hasn’t been how America got built. Read the whole interview.